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Who can Claim the Social Security Survivor Benefits of the Deceased Recipient?

Qualified children can claim their deceased parent’s benefits through Social Security survivor benefits.
Qualified children can claim their deceased parent’s benefits through Social Security survivor benefits. (Photo: Greenbush Financial)

Most Americans contribute to Social Security for their entire working life to ensure they receive benefits during retirement. However, some recipients die before they can collect Social Security benefits.

A registered social security analyst, Kevin Walton, assured the recipients that their efforts in paying their dues wouldn’t be for naught. He said that Social Security paid out monthly benefits in 2021 with $2.8 billion to over 4 million recipients of survivor benefits from parents who are either disabled, retired, or deceased.

How do Social Security Benefits Work?

The Social Security Administration provides continuing income for seniors during retirement. Workers pay taxes from their income, which they can receive during retirement. The income someone earns from retirement benefits is based on their 35 highest-earning years.

Unlike other retirement benefits like 401(k), where the money you contribute goes directly into your account, you will receive Social Security benefits from the money pooled together. Workers are paying for the current retirees’ benefits; the next generation will fund your retirement benefits when you retire.

See: Social Security Survivor Benefits: Child of A Deceased Parent

What are Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Social Security benefits are primarily designed for individuals who reached their retirement age. However, certain situations make the beneficiaries unable to collect their benefits.

The recipient’s child might qualify for survivor benefits if the recipient dies, for instance, a parent or sibling.

The amount the child of a deceased parent can claim depends on their parent’s work record. Note a child will not be able to receive the full benefit that their parents would have earned during retirement. Instead, qualified survivor beneficiaries can receive 75% of their deceased parent’s benefits.

David Freitag, a financial consultant and Social Security expert with MassMutual, says the payment is adjusted annually for inflation. For instance, if the parent’s monthly benefit before death is $2,400, the child would receive a monthly benefit of $1,800. While a child cannot receive the full benefit, their surviving parent might be able to:

  • A widow or widower of full retirement age can earn 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits (depending on a person’s birth year)
  • A widow or widower below the full retirement age but at least 60 can receive up to 99% of the benefits
  • A widow or widower of any age caring for a child 16 years old and below can earn 75% of the benefits
Children of a deceased parent can only claim 75% of the survivor benefits, whereas spouses can claim 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefit.

Children of a deceased parent can only claim 75% of the survivor benefits, whereas spouses can claim 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefit. (Photo: iStock)

How to Qualify for a Parent’s Social Security Survivor Benefits?

The parent must have worked long enough in a job and paid their Social Security taxes to make their children qualify for survivor benefits. Note that a child cannot receive the Social Security survivor benefits if a parent did not work. Generally, a deceased parent must have worked for at least ten years to be eligible for the full benefits.

The number of years a person must have worked for their family to qualify for the survivor benefits depends on the age when they died. According to Walton, some employers do not pay into Social Security on behalf of their employees. Some employers of certain school districts, police, and fire departments do not contribute to Social Security. It means that the children of such employees either won’t qualify for survivor benefits or their benefits will be based on income from other employers that did contribute to Social Security.

Generally, a child must be under 18 years old to qualify for a deceased parent’s benefits. They can collect the survivor benefits up to 19 if they attend elementary or secondary school full-time. But, a child with a disability can receive the deceased parent’s benefits after 19 and before they turn 22.

A child with a disability can claim Social Security survivor benefits until 22 years old.

A child with a disability can claim Social Security survivor benefits until 22 years old. (Photo: iStock)

See: Social Security After Death: All You Need To Know

When Do Survivor Benefits End?

Generally, survivor benefits are provided to children until they are 18. But, benefits might be available indefinitely for those with a disability before age 22.

On the other hand, a surviving spouse has no limit on how long they can collect the benefits. Widows or widowers who reach the minimum age to collect retirement benefits can claim them based on their deceased spouse’s work record. While surviving spouses who are not old enough to collect the retirement benefits can collect the survivor benefit until their child reaches 16.

How to Receive the Survivor Benefits?

To apply for survivor benefits for a child, a parent must show the child’s birth certificate or other documents showing proof of birth or adoption. The surviving parent must also provide the Social Security numbers of both the child and the deceased parent. Proof of disability might also be required when applying on behalf of a child with a disability.

Once you’ve gathered the necessary documents, you can only apply by calling 1-800-772-1213, since you cannot report a death or ask for benefits for survivors online.

Find Out: Find Out How the Social Security Program Works

More: Social Security: The Right Time to Claim Benefits

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